By Mitchell Clarke
One of Pakenham’s most iconic retailers is all set to reopen his shop as soon as small businesses are given the go ahead from the State Government on 1 November.
Charlie De Maio from Men of Style on Main Street has now been shut for seven months, but he has no plans to open until he’s legally allowed.
“It’s obviously affected us quite a bit,” he said.
“It is what it is, we’ve just had to do the right thing and isolate and wait until the authorities say we can reopen.”
Unlike many other businesses though, Mr De Maio has been unable to rely on an income through online orders.
With the exception of a few click and collect orders from regular customers who knew exactly what they were after, the businessman hasn’t attracted a sale since March.
“For me to set up online, it’s hard,” he explained.
“Originally we were talking about going online but there was a time factor involved there … We didn’t know how long this was going to be, so we thought we’d just try and grind it out until the end.”
But Mr De Maio’s business model is also reliant on the traditional in-person customer service experience.
“I’m very much a people person … I like that interaction with customers,” he said.
His wife Jodi added the business offered a “personal service” that wasn’t guaranteed from bigger retailers.
“People come in for that customer service. They know Charlie will always measure them and fit them … so when you become an online store, it kind of takes away that service we offer,” she explained.
After spending the majority of the year working on projects around the house, Mr De Maio is raring to re-open and on 1 November, he’ll be ready to operate “Covid safely”.
“I’ve got my shop all set up – sanitisers, screen protectors, signage and forms – I’m pretty much ready to go, so as soon as I get the all clear I’ll be operating straight away,” he said.
“I’m trying to make the store as safe as possible to make people as comfortable as possible.
“I’m looking forward to opening up and being supported by my local customers.”
Once retail opens, the De Maio’s hope the community will consider shopping locally rather than spending their money with online international companies.
“I suppose the community needs to come out and support the small traders. They’ve been affected pretty hard throughout this,” Ms De Maio said.